What were you hoping for at the start of 2020? I can’t even remember! Though I do recall that my wife, Emma, was hoping for a kitten – I’d promised her one for Christmas.
We’d only recently joined The Globe Church. The church was just starting a sermon series on John, Chapters 5-6, which would run until the 8th March. Most of us probably had little idea that shortly after the conclusion of the series, we would find ourselves entering national lockdown, unable to meet in person, and that ‘you’re on mute’ would become a lingual staple!
March seems like a long time ago, but the message in John’s Gospel is still the same: Jesus has come to make us well.
The sermon series began and ended with Jesus asking a question. As we return to John’s Gospel for the autumn, let's revisit these two questions and see how they encourage us to put our hope in Jesus.
'Do you want to be healed?'
‘When Jesus saw him [the disabled man] lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5 v6)
In the healing at the pool on the sabbath, Jesus sees the need of the disabled man and then asks him if he wants to be made well. That Jesus even goes to the pool is the first thing that stands out. Jesus deliberately goes to the places many deliberately avoid.
And he doesn’t look away, but sees the pain and frustration of the man. He sees our pain and frustration today. And then he asks, ‘do you want to be healed?’
Jesus never asks a question he doesn’t already know the answer to. But by asking the question, he is revealing what the 19th Century preacher Charles Spurgeon called “a blindness [that] had come over these people at the pool”. We saw that although Jesus has the power to heal everyone by the pool, they simply aren’t interested. Their hope was not in Jesus, but in other things.
‘You do not want to leave too, do you?'
Which leads us to our second question, at the end of Chapter 6:
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6 v68)
In the preceding verses, we see many people decide to abandon Jesus. This must have been so disheartening. It is easy to feel disheartened as a Christian today. Sometimes it feels like friends and colleagues just aren't interested in the gospel. During lockdown, I can find myself feeling like Elijah when he flees to Horeb in 1 Kings chapter 19: 'Am I the only one left?'
In response to being abandoned, Jesus doesn't become disheartened. Nor does he just try to cover up his failing ratings and hope things will turn around. Quite the opposite, Jesus turns round and asks his closest followers if they are going to leave too. By asking the question, Jesus shows us that the right response to blindness is faith.
Peter’s response is astounding. He recognises that Jesus is Lord and he recognises that following Jesus is of far greater spiritual value than earthly things. Once Peter sees Jesus for who he really is, he sees the reality of hoping in anything else.
Which leaves us with a question, what are we placing our hope in?
From these two questions, we see that Jesus has the power to reveal our blindness and to make us well, through faith. He has the words of eternal life. And as we continue through John’s gospel this autumn, let’s be asking God that Jesus would open our eyes and teach us to put our hope in him.
 ‘Jesus at Bethesda; or, Waiting Changed for Believing’ by Charles Haddon Spurgeon April 07, 1867. Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 13. https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/jesus-at-bethesda-or-waiting-changed-for-believing/#flipbook/